Thailand Drowns in Sugar to Slake Thirst for Big Prizes

Children worship the cult of juice in an image collected by the 'Message to the Green Tea God' Tumblr, which features images posted to social media under the hashtag #ichitan.

BANGKOK — A new iPhone, Mercedes-Benz and other riches are only the twist of a cap away, according to the endless promotions for brands such as Ichitan, Yen Yen and Oishi.

While consumers drink their way through bottle after bottle in search of winning codes, they’re also burning out their pancreases on an overload of sugar, and health officials are calling for regulation of the advertisements.

“Thai people like lucky draw campaigns,” said the Department of Health’s Sutha Jienmaneechotchai. “Letting companies freely arrange the promotions has boosted consumption.

Sutha said other countries such as Japan have reined in such campaigns by limiting the rewards offered.

Every day a Thai consumer eats about 26 teaspoons of sugar, according to new data yesterday from the department.

According to the Ministry of Public Health, Thais consume 104 grams of sugar daily, which is about three times higher than what’s recommended by the World Health Organization, or WHO.

Those numbers are different from other studies. A February report from market research firm Euromonitor put Thai consumers at 29.3 grams of sugar per day, with an average American eating 126 grams on any given day.

In 2014 the WHO recommended an adult of average body size should keep daily sugar intake down to about 50 grams.

Sutha said his office will ask authorities to regulate ads for sugary products to fight rising levels of diabetes, as diabetes in the country has been on the rise.

 

Tan Passakornnatee, owner of Ichitan Co., is a household name and features prominently in his juice company’s aggressive advertising – often in his signature ‘Tanman’ costume

 

Most of that sugar, he said, was coming from sugary beverages. Green tea was found to contain the most – 12 to 14 teaspoons – while fresh coffee and soft drinks contained around 10 teaspoons of sugar.

Bottle cap contests and similar promotional tools have exploded in the highly competitive beverage market after they were introduced by well-known, costumed businessman Tan Passakornnatee some years back.

Competitors in the lucrative juice trade, which is expected to hit 1.7 billion baht this year, quickly followed suit by appealing to consumers with expensive prizes.